10 lessons House of Cards can teach you about customer service

5th May 2015

Politics and the business world: different animals, same beast. And as the country’s attention turns to politics in the run up to the election, mine has turned to the hit political drama House of Cards and the surprising amount you can learn about customer service from the show's protagonist, Frank Underwood.  

Sure, he’s a conniving, calculating psychopath; not to mention the fact we’re introduced to him at the precise moment he murders a dog – but don’t let that put you off.

From honesty to assertiveness, the House of Cards congressman can teach us some valuable lessons in keeping customers happy and getting the results you want. Regardless of the type of contact you have with customers – whether it’s face-to-face or over the phone, in a restaurant or the finance industry – sterling customer service skills help everyone. Here are 10 invaluable gems of advice from the TV antihero...

#1 Be honest

“There's no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”

Transparency is crucial when dealing with customers. Don’t make false promises simply to keep someone happy - you need to be reliable. Nothing annoys customers more than a broken guarantee. Oh, and if you do screw up, admit it and apologise sincerely.

#2 Be consistent

“For those climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.”

Any entrepreneur wanting to create an enduring business, own the industry they’re in and earn the admiration of their audience, needs to be dependable. If anyone Frank deals with is unhappy, he finds a way to turn the situation around immediately and openly.

#3 Be confident

“Insecurity bores me.”

When something goes wrong, Frank puts himself out there, says the right things and flawlessly wins back his followers. Hang a lantern on your complaints, appreciate your faults and turn them into opportunities - not by shrugging them off, but tackling them full force.

#4 Turn problems into opportunities

“The bullet has grazed my cheek but I haven’t fallen”

Social media has handed unprecedented power to the customer: great news for them; not so good news for business. Well, if something goes wrong, that is. In true Frank fashion, give the negative situation a 360 spin by 1) staying in control, 2) acknowledging the problem publicly and 3) knowing what will make it better. Simple heartfelt apologies and calm factual replies will work wonders.

#5 Don’t be one-sided

“You can’t purchase loyalty, Raymond. Not the sort I have in mind. if you want to earn my loyalty, then you have to offer yours in return. And if we can agree to that - well, you’re a man with imagination.”

Be helpful - even if there’s no profit in it. The smallest transaction can end up being your million pound customer if you take that extra step. People notice when businesses make an effort; what’s more, they’ll tell other people about you too.

#6 Know your customer

“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”

Research, research, research. What makes your customer tick? What are their needs? How can you fulfil them in a way other competitors can’t? Everyone isn’t your customer, and when you get a precise idea of who they are, you can engage with them more closely.

#7 Give them what they want

“Keep being valuable. That’s the best way to show your gratitude.”

Listen to your audience and show them exactly how you can solve their problem- when they want it and how they want it. Wowing your customers gives you competitive advantage and will keep them coming back for more.

#8 Build a solid team

“It’s so refreshing to work with someone who’ll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth.”

Frank wouldn’t get anywhere without the people around him - training your team is crucial for ensuring positive staff-customer interactions. Team building activities create a pleasant work environment for everyone and give them the power to please.

#9 Always have a plan

“Take a step back, look at the bigger picture. That’s how you devour a whale - one bite at a time.”

Rushed tasks are obvious to customers: to be a people-pleaser, you need to put in both time and effort. If your diary is spilling with to-dos (that’ll be every day then?) take time to prioritise. 

#10 Stay on top of customer trends

“Treading water is the same as drowning for people like you and me.”

For business to evolve, you must keep up with ever-changing customer behaviours. If you’re unwilling to make the necessary changes to stay current, people will look elsewhere. Whether this means giving customers extra for their money (freebies, discounts etc), personally taking time out for them or creating a new, surprising product or service - always give customers more than they expect.

Matthew Moore is the hub lead at Johnston Press. the hub was created to strengthen relationships between Johnston Press and local businesses and offers tips, resources and inspiration to entrepreneurs.


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